Picture Books and Accounting

One December, I found myself looking back over the year wondering, unhelpfully, in a businessy tax-ish counting sort of way: “Now let’s see, what exactly did I do this year?” (I should have known by that “exactly” where this would go). So I began counting up the number of picture book manuscripts I’d done that year—in a kind of awful picture book accounting. It wasn’t long before I realized there were none. I’d written no picture book manuscripts. I hadn’t got a single picture book contract that year and no picture book published. I had done nothing. How could this have happened? I’d been working so hard. What had I been doing all that time? The trouble was I was looking at picture books like an accountant—as if they were products you manufacture. But picture books aren’t products you manufacture; they are seeds that you sow. A picture book can begin like a poem (I think all great picture books, actually, are poems) and Robert Frost said it best: “A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.” You can’t force a picture book—any more than you can a seed. IMG_0008 They need time to take root. To grow. You have to wait for them. You can’t make them come by force of will power. They come when they are ready. Like plants. You have to work hard: get down on your hands and knees in the dirt. You must till the soil, water and weed. One year, none will come up. The next, they may all come up at once. So when you can’t see anything and think you’ve got nothing to show–it’s probably not that nothing is happening. It’s probably just that what’s happening is quiet, and hidden and secret. It has a lot to do with trust. And a lot to do with waiting. And a lot to do with being on your knees. And almost nothing to do with accounting.


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7 Responses to “Picture Books and Accounting”

  1. Mary Purcell

    Oh how true, Sally….not only of picture books but also of many other things in life, right? Thanks for the reminder, dear friend.

  2. Victoria

    I needed this today. Thank you. With so much other life crashing into my supposed painting time, it’s encouraging to remember that there’s a lot of silent growing, creating going on all the time.

  3. Cory Leonardo

    Thank you. I prayed for just the right encouragement this morning, the encouragement to keep going, keep trusting those little seeds buried where my hands can’t get to them. He heard.

    Oh, how we want results, fruit, a pretty plant to keep us company. If my day isn’t neatly filled with just the right amount of reading, inspiration, and pages, pages, pages, I’m all too apt to feel like a failure. And all the planting up until now? It feels barren, and I wonder if I’m not unlike my three children who plant their million tiny apple seeds in the rough ground of our backyard, hoping for a harvest of apple trees and getting none.

    But through the doubts like windstorms and hope deferred like an icy frost ready to snuff the life out of those seeds we’ve planted, we must listen, listen for the whisper of Rain. It will come. We must open our eyes to the Sun which coaxes life out of death- even when that Sun is hidden behind the clouds.

    So for you, Sally, for me, and for all our fellow picture book seed sowers, novel sowers, word sowers, I pray:

    Isaiah 55:10-13 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of the briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown….

    God, let the words that come out of Your mouth and into our spirits, not return to You empty! Let them be fruit for the hungry, beauty for the downcast, shade for the tired. And all for Your glory! Soli Deo Gloria!

    Thanks again 🙂 I’m pumped.


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